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For a quick fix, you could do worse than take a hit of...

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For a quick fix, you could do worse than take a hit of TikTok


Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a Brown Woman in a White South Africa. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd

TikTok is easy because we don't have to post anything and at the end of the day, with very, very little investment, we get to look forward to scrolling through multiple videos that make us laugh and laugh and laugh and escape life.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

I have never uploaded anything. I have no idea how it works. It’s not downloaded on my phone because I have absolutely zero interest in spending hours learning how to make what seem like overly complex videos that last only a few seconds, but boy do I love to use TikTok.

Sound familiar? You could change any one of those words above and redirect the passage into a drug addict’s almost perfect, yet completely flawed, rationale for using crack cocaine, for example. “Hey, I don’t deal the stuff or try to get other people to give it a go, it’s just my own thing, my own life. I use it and I’m not asking anyone else to. It’s not like I’m dealing the stuff or getting involved in any cartels or anything.” See what I mean? Perfectly sound swap-around, except in one case we’re talking about hard drugs, and in the other we’re talking about … well, exactly the same thing. Hard drugs.

Both TikTok and crack do the same thing to the human body: they stimulate the brain for short periods of time, in ways that are pleasurable; we want to use them over and over again; they have the ability to trigger obsessive behaviour and we’re bound to exhibit symptoms of addiction because what we’re consuming is stimulating and consistent enough to keep us coming back for more.

Now, like I said, I don’t have TikTok on my phone, but my wife does. See, she doesn’t use social media, so she has no other social media apps on her phone, which is why my phone is convenient for her at times, but it’s a mutually beneficial relationship because her phone has TikTok, so … Tit for tat and all that.

TikTok is easy because she doesn’t have to post anything and at the end of the day, with very, very little investment, we get to look forward to scrolling through multiple videos that make us laugh and laugh and laugh and escape life. And at the end of a long, hard working day, who doesn’t like the feeling of finally settling down to something you’ve looked forward to all day? For some it’s that glass of wine or whisky, for others it is in fact some kind of hard drug, but for us it’s TikTok.

See, this is how the brain works. There’s a front brain and a back brain and a midbrain. Now that midsection, that’s where the dopamine responses hit hard. Like when you take in high amounts of sugar or fat or even salt. You’re consuming things that are making your midbrain drool and making your body very, very happy. More than that, the midbrain lets you know what it craves, it anticipates its reward, and then you feel lekker. End of. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a doughnut or a 15-second TikTok video. If you really want to hit that ultimate high, put your hands together – that’s right, you heard me – have a doughnut and watch TikTok at the same time.

A lot of psychologists are really concerned about our brain activity and what these tech apps are doing to our attention spans and development – and that’s not only for kids, it’s for fully grown adults as well, because the brain isn’t like your nose, you know? You’re not just given it – it can change with time. It’s why we’re able to develop addictions in the first place. The aunty at GrandWest making the seat hot at the same slot machine, for example, wasn’t born that way; she became accustomed to it because it offers her brain a hit and it offers her random reinforcement and she likes that feeling.

Now, I’m not advocating for addictions here. These are serious problems that can cause great harm to the addicts themselves, and I am for rehabilitation. But if you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you don’t gamble and your biggest vice is having one too many homemade Nescafés to get you through the day, then you know what I say? Go forth and TikTok, dammit. Life is short. Take some time at the end of your day to live someone else’s. DM168


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